Best Practice for Mask Mandates and Conflicts | Modern restaurant management


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As new variations spread across the country, some states are once again encouraging the wearing of masks. As a business owner who tries to keep your restaurant open, you might consider requiring it for your customers. Sadly, not everyone is on board wearing a mask. This can create instant tension in your establishment and conflict between your staff and your customers.

Whether you live in an area where masks are mandatory or you just need them for your business, how can you deal with anti-mask conflicts?

Give your customers proper notice

When you own a business, you set the rules. Restaurant owners have always had the right to refuse service to anyone who does not respect these rules. Most people have heard of the saying “no shoes, no shirt, no service”. For many, however, that list now includes masks. It’s crucial to put in place rules that you believe will benefit your business and keep your customers and staff safe. But, make sure you are transparent about them.

The first people who should be informed of any rule change are your staff. Hold regular meetings to keep your employees as informed as possible of any changes you make. Remember that your staff will be the ones enforcing the mask requirements on the floor, so making sure they are properly trained will make their lives easier.

Then make sure your customers know the rules. Inform them of the mask requirement before entering your establishment by posting a sign on the door or an A-sign on the sidewalk. Keep your website and social media pages constantly updated with your needs. The last thing you want, as a restaurant, is for a customer to accuse you of not making your rules public. The more you can let them know about changes before they happen, the less likely there is to be a conflict. If they don’t like these rules, it’s their choice to turn their business over to someone else.

Keep your staff ready

Train staff on all pandemic protocols and make sure they stay safe. Your training program should include:

  • How to keep things hygienic
  • Cleaning practices
  • Current statistics of viral spread
  • Mask policies
  • Immunization policies

You should also train your employees on how to handle an angry or contentious customer. If someone walks into your facility and starts complaining about not wearing a mask, your staff needs to be prepared.

You can also train your staff in de-escalation techniques, including anything from listening to an angry person flooding them with words, to acknowledgment, apology, and clarification. Some customers won’t calm down, but de-escalation skills can help your employees maintain a calm and positive environment.

Offer other options

Try to offer your customers other options that limit direct contact between them and your staff, such as delivery, contactless curbside pickup and take out

While customers will still need to wear a mask to enter your restaurant, most people aren’t as likely to complain about having to wear one for 30 seconds while they pick up food and bring it home. Self-ordering kiosks can also help, especially if you place them in front of your restaurants. These are growing in popularity thanks to the current labor shortage across the country.

Reducing the risk of conflict within your facility is one of the best things you can do. As an employer, the safety and well-being of your staff should be your top priority. If things ever get out of hand between a staff member and a client, make sure you are ready and willing to step in and help.

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About Imogene T. Bishop

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